A neighbourhood plan sounds like a boring, bureaucratic exercise. But it is very important document which gives residents of a town or parish a much more stronger voice in how their community develops. It also brings in more money for the local council to spend on infrastructure.
Debenham’s draft plan was explained to a packed public meeting last week where it was praised by Ben Gummer, who until last summer sat around the Cabinet table. He said he had seen a lot of these plans and it as good as any he had seen.
Others in Suffolk are finding it difficult to agree on a vision for their communities. In Hadleigh, the East Anglian Daily Times reported today, the committee of councillors working on the plan have fallen out. They have not even updated their Facebook page since September 2016. It is vey easy for neighbourhoods to tie themselves in knots over documents like this.
In Debenham the story is different and the process is nearing the end with consultation on the final draft starting on Thursday and lasting until March 16. I am going to respond later this week to help those who are drawing up the document which will need to be approved but a village referendum.
Not only does and approved plan give the community a much stronger say on development in the area, it also increases the money available to the parish or town council to spend.
The money comes from the Community Infrastructure Levy which developers have to pay. Mid Suffolk District Council estimates that a development of 30 average size three-bedroom houses would result in a payment to a local council of £33,750. But there is a catch: if the council does not have a neighbourhood plan approved the figure drops to £20,250.
It can also be read at the library (next to the primary school), Coopersfield, Webster’s Newsagents, the URC, Dove Cottage, the Children’s Centre, Debenham Leisure Centre and the Doctors’ Surgery. Short questionnaires with space for comment are available at the same places. Alternatively, use this link to email the parish council team. Please say if you agree or disagree that the overall plan sets out a sustainable future for the village, and whether the plan takes the right approach to where development should take place. And add you name and address so the response can be validated.
This is how the Government describes neighbourhood planning:
Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area. They are able to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built, have their say on what those new buildings should look like and what infrastructure should be provided, and grant planning permission for the new buildings they want to see go ahead. Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community where the ambition of the neighbourhood is aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area.
And this is what it says it means to communities:
Neighbourhood planning enables communities to play a much stronger role in shaping the areas in which they live and work and in supporting new development proposals. This is because unlike the parish, village or town plans that communities may have prepared, a neighbourhood plan forms part of the development plan and sits alongside the Local Plan prepared by the local planning authority. Decisions on planning applications will be made using both the Local Plan and the neighbourhood plan, and any other material considerations.